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Grand Trunk Pacific Railway in Central Alberta
built 1911-12  (Three Hills subdivision of Canadian National Railway 1920-present)

Construction began on the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, a subsidiary of the Grand Trunk Railway, in Western Canada in 1905 as transcontinental competition for the Canadian Pacific Railway. The line was built from Fort William, Ontario (now Thunder Bay) through to Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Edmonton, and eventually on to Prince Rupert, B.C. The railway reached Edmonton in 1909 and continued the following year to Jasper.

In late 1909 construction started on a branch line at Tofield that was to head south towards Calgary, roughly parallel to and east of the Calgary and Edmonton Railway. Much of the route was the same as that surveyed by the Alberta and Athabasca Railway Company in the late 1880s as the original proposed route linking Calgary with Edmonton. Construction was fairly rapid reaching Camrose in early 1910.

The next challenge was to get across the Battle River.

Duhamel wooden trestleThe Duhamel wooden trestle bridge was completed in 1910 over the Battle River 20 km southwest of Camrose. At almost 4,000 ft. long and 120 ft. high, it was the longest and one of the largest wooden bridges ever built in the world.

The next step was to determine a location for a future divisional point where crews would change and rail facilities built.

Mirror railyard 1912The railway tried to purchase land at Lamerton, a small town on a north-south native and fur-trade trail approximately half way between Edmonton and Calgary. A proposed deal with the landowner fell through so the railway created a new town 2 km south instead and called it Mirror late in 1910. A roundhouse, rail yards and other facilities were constructed.

As Mirror grew to a town of 1,000 people with stores, banks and other amenities, including a plan to build a lakeside resort nearby, Lamerton quickly died. The first passenger train arrived in Mirror in July 1911.
Ardley wooden trestle 1916 over Red Deer River
The following year, the line continued south through Alix, Ardley and Delburne to Trochu and Three Hills. Another hurdle on that section of line was the Red Deer River. A wooden trestle bridge 1,500 ft. long and 158' tall was built in 1911 just north of Ardley but it was destroyed by river flooding a few years later. The centre portion of the bridge was immediately replaced by three steel spans with two steel towers. Ardley had some significance at the time as a coal-mining community.

The line continued south through Beiseker, Irricana and reached Calgary in 1914.

In 1920, the Grand Trunk Pacific became part of Canadian National Railways.

With the consolidation of the Grand Trunk Pacific and the Canadian Northern which both had parallel north-south routes between Edmonton and Calgary east of the Canadian Pacific, two significant changes occurred.

Mirror rail yard 1928In 1923, Mirror became even more significant as a divisional point with the elimination of Big Valley as a divisional point on the Canadian Northern line.

Mirror also became the connection point to the Brazeau subdivision to Red Deer, Rocky Mountain House and Nordegg of the former Canadian Northern Western Railway. The previous connection with the Canadian Northern farther east was removed.

Another major change was the dismantling in 1924 of the Duhamel wooden trestle when Canadian National Railways decided to use the Canadian Northern crossing of the Battle River further east. A new connection was built on the south side of the river.

The Ardley bridge washed out in 1952. It was replaced by a steel trestle and reopened in 1955.

Passenger service between Edmonton and Calgary continued on both lines south of Camrose. Steam was replaced by Railiner service in the mid-1950s. The last Railiners were used in the 1970s.

Although the former Grand Trunk Pacific line is still used as the primary Canadian National link between Edmonton and Calgary, much of the former infrastructure is gone. Mirror lost a lot of its significance as a railway town when diesel replaced steam in the 1950s. It lost even more significance when the railroad ran through trains between the two largest Alberta centres without changing crews at Mirror. Once a thriving town, Mirror is now a small hamlet in Lacombe County.
Ardley GTP station on a farm
The Ardley station was closed in 1965 and sold to a farmer close to the community for $30 for use as a farm building two years later. The stations at Bashaw, Alix, Lousana, Elnora, Huxley, Trochu and most others along the line were dismantled or sold.

Delburne GTP station at Anthony Henday Museum
The Delburne station was moved to a new location and developed into the Anthony Henday Musuem which includes a caboose and wooden water tower.

In Three Hills, the station was relocated and turned into the Kneehills Historic Museum which includes a caboose and box car.



Railway Bridges of Central Alberta
Railway Stations of Central Alberta

Dawe: The Village of Mirror turns 100 (Red Deer Express July 2012)
 

 

Trails, Transit, Trains
Trails and Trains Overview
Trains and Transit Overview

Milestones 1910-13
Calgary Edmonton Trail
Transit in Central Alberta
Red Deer Transit

Jubilee 3001 Chinook
Locomotives Central Alberta
Rise and Fall of Passenger Rail
 

The Railways of Central Alberta
Calgary & Edmonton Railway
C & E Railway at Red Deer
Alberta Central Railway
Canadian Northern Railway
Canadian Northern Western RR
Canadian National Railway in RD
Grand Trunk Pacific Central Alberta
Lacombe & Blindman Valley RR
Timetable Excerpts
 
Railway Stations of the Region
C & ER Combination Stations
Portable Stations
Red Deer CPR 1910 Station
Role of Railway Stations
Red Deer's 4 Stations
CPR Stations in Central Alberta
CNR Stations in Central Alberta
Multiple Station Communities
Station Plans

 
Bridges, Structures, Heritage
Rail Structures of Region
Central Alberta Rail Bridges

Mintlaw Trestle
Alberta's Railway Bridges
Western Canada Rail Bridges



 

 

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